The authorities restricted the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, particularly in the run-up to the presidential elections. LGBTI people continued to face discrimination and violence from state and non-state actors. Vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, faced additional difficulties accessing health care. The life sentence of prisoner of conscience Azimjan Askarov was upheld following his retrial.
Prisoners of conscience
On 24 January, the Chui Regional Court completed the retrial of prisoner of conscience Azimjan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek human rights defender, and upheld his conviction and life sentence for “participating in ethnic violence and the murder of a police officer” in 2010. In March 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Azimjan Askarov be released immediately, recognizing that he had been tortured, denied the right to a fair trial and detained arbitrarily and under inhumane conditions. Following the 24 January decision, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that the Court’s decision highlighted “serious shortcomings” in the country’s judicial system.
In September, a court in the town of Bazar-Korgan overturned the 2010 court decision to confiscate Azimjan Askarov’s family home. If approved, the confiscation order would have rendered his wife, Khadicha Askarova, homeless.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
LGBTI people continued to face discrimination and violence from state and non-state actors. Labrys, an LGBTI rights group, continued its efforts to bring to justice the suspected perpetrators of a violent attack in 2015 on its office and on a private event to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Criminal trials against the members of a nationalist youth group behind the attacks collapsed when the victims named in the court documents “reconciled” with the perpetrators.
Sex work was not criminalized but continued to be highly stigmatized, and sex workers faced discrimination and violence. Police operations targeting sex workers through arbitrary arrests for “petty hooliganism” and other purported administrative offences continued throughout the year. Police officers regularly extorted money from sex workers.
Right to health
Marginalized groups, including people living in rural areas, people living in poverty, and people with disabilities, continued to face barriers to accessing adequate health care. Although they were entitled to free or subsidized health care, they were routinely denied access to quality health care facilities, specialist treatment and medications. Informal payments to medical personnel, who were affected by low salaries, were commonplace.
Legal, constitutional or institutional developments
Kyrgyzstan signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011, but had not ratified it, citing Kyrgyzstan’s economic difficulties as the primary reason.
Freedoms of expression and assembly
The authorities imposed restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, particularly in the run-up to the October presidential elections. Independent journalists, media outlets, human rights defenders and political activists faced intimidation and harassment, including prosecution on charges of spreading false information and destabilizing the country.
Between March and April, the General Prosecutor’s Office initiated a number of civil court proceedings for defamation against online media outlet Zanoza.kg, its co-founders and independent journalists Narynbek Idinov and Dina Maslova, and human rights defender Cholpon Dzhakupova. This was in connection with media articles critical of the President. In June, the court ruled in favour of the plaintiff in two trials and ordered Zanoza.kg as well as the other three defendants to pay 3 million soms (USD44,000) each in moral damages. The Supreme Court upheld the rulings in November.
On 18 March, police disrupted a peaceful demonstration in the capital Bishkek and arrested a number of participants. Human rights defenders, journalists, and other activists had organized the march to protest against the deterioration of freedom of expression. The route had been previously agreed with the relevant authorities. Five demonstrators were charged and sentenced to five days’ administrative detention for disrupting traffic. The hearing was closed, including to the defendants’ lawyers who were denied access to the courtroom.
In July, a court in Bishkek accepted a request by the Mayor’s Office for a blanket ban on all public demonstrations at key locations until after the presidential elections. The ban, however, did not apply to official events organized by the authorities.